Speech III–Stuttering

Let’s wind up our discussion about children’s speech development with some thoughts about stuttering. More technically called “dysfluency, ”  stuttering or stammering is a very common occurrence in the language acquiring toddler. It is very uncommonly a serious concern. Typical onset is about 18-24 months to 5 years and it is more common in boys than girls. 1/5 children stutter but only 1/20 will last longer than 6 months. Children may struggle with the word’s first syllable (l-l-l-like) or prolonged sounds (sssee) or repeatedly interupt themselves with “um”. Stuttering is often part of normal language development and will usually pass. People often believe it can be caused by emotional problems. This is rarely the case–far more typical is the reverse, where stuttering is the cause of emotional distress. Even more infrequent is stuttering as a sign of brain damage/injury or mental illness.

We should pay attention to some special circumstances (not “warning signs”):

  • Stuttering continues after the age 5
  • Increasing frequency of stuttering
  • Tension or straining of facial muscles
  • Rising vocal pitch with stuttering
  • Child begins to visibly avoid speaking in public/social situations
  • Family history of prolonged or severe stuttering

If your toddler is stuttering I recommend:

  • Endeavor to have conversations in a relaxed fun environement
  • Speak slowly and clearly yourself
  • Listen closely when your child is speaking
  • Don’t rush them, don’t finish their words or sentences
  • Engage in conversations in the absence of distractions like tv or video entertainment-dinnertime family conversation is great
  • Don’t’ pressure your stuttering child to speak publicly if he does not desire to do so
  • Singing or reciting nursery rhymes together can help your child and increase his confidence in his speaking skills

I will close by saying again that stuttering is rarely a serious concern and usually a transient phenomenon. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns, Thanks for following.

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